The Peaceful Revolution, the momentous transformation that culminated in the toppling of the Berlin Wall, is being celebrated with particular intensity this month as the country celebrates the 20th anniversary of the “Mauerfall,” or fall of the wall. November 9, 1989 was the exact day thousands of East Germans streamed over, through and around the wall and into the arms of waiting West Germans as the old order collapsed and a new Germany was born.
All year long, activities, tours and celebrations have been ongoing in Germany’s capital city to mark the anniversary, but this month is particularly festive, as some of the most high profile events take place. The one with the most most star-power was probably the free U2 concert on November 5, which had Bono and crew rocking 10,000 lucky fans in front of the Brandenburg Gate, formerly a symbol of a divided city, and now a powerful emblem of unity. (Sponsor MTV has taken some flack for ironically erecting a 6-foot wall around the event). A few days later, the political rock stars were on hand for the highly anticipated Festival of Freedom which also took place in front of the symbolic columns of the Brandenburg Gate. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, France’s Nicholas Sarkozy, Germany’s Premier Angela Merkel and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were on hand to watch the festivities and fireworks that included the symbolic toppling of 1,000 6-foot-tall, hand-painted dominoes that traced the former perimeter of the real barrier.
If you missed these parties, don’t worry, there are still plenty of opportunities to view exhibitions, take tours and explore the fascinating facets of Berlin related to this unique moment in history. You can choose from special hotel packages that include tickets to the Berlin Wall Memorial, visit historic sites like the recreation of Checkpoint Charlie, or check out the ongoing Peaceful Revolution open-air exhibition taking place in Alexanderplatz next to the World Time Clock (slated to close November 14, we just learned the exhibition has now been extended until October 2010). For some visual inspiration about the history and imagery of the wall, check out Boston.com’s excellent slideshow.
If there is more German art, history and culture you want to explore while in Berlin, here’s a shortlist of some top museums (with free admission info included) you wont want to miss:
The Friedrichwerdersche Kirche and Schinkel Museum, which are located in a deconsecrated church, were designed by the renowned neo-classical architect, Karl Friedrich Schinkel and feature sculptures and exhibits on the life and work of the renowned Berlin master builder. For those preferring modern architecture, the Mies van der Rohe house is a “must” and also free.
Other museums offer free admission only on certain days: On Mondays, the Deutsche Guggenheim presents high-quality exhibitions on contemporary art free of charge. The National Museums of Berlin do not charge admission to their permanent exhibitions on Thursdays, during the last fours hours until closing. The National Museums include the museums on Museum Island, at the Kultur Forum, the Hamburger Bahnhof, as well as the Helmut Newton Foundation’s Museum of Photography.
On the first Monday in every month, the Bröhan Museum offers free admission to their impressive exhibition on Art Nouveau, Art Déco and the Berlin Secession. The same applies to the Ephraim Palais and the Märkisches Museum, which both feature Berlin art and history.
Another important stop is one of Berlin’s most important cultural icons, the Neues Museum (New Museum) on Berlin’s Museum Island, which reopened October 17 after more than 60 years in WWII-related ruins. The re-opening completed the decade-long, 200 million Euro restoration project, marking the third major milestone in the overall restoration of the five renowned museums that make up the UNESCO world heritage site, Museum Island.
The Neues Museum houses the archaeological collections of the Egyptian Museum and Papyrus Collection, the Museum of Pre-and-Early History, as well as works from the Collection of Classical Antiquities.
Finally, if you just want to show support from the comfort of your home and get a chance to write on a virtual Berlin Wall, there is a twitter site: www.berlintwitterwall.com, where you can connect with others and voice your opinion. Note: not all (fire)walls have crumbled, as the site apparently has been taken down in China.